City leaders have been meeting this week in response to Native American concerns about public safety and issues of discrimination in Lawrence.
Those concerns were expressed at a forum Friday at Haskell Indian Junior College. Mayor Bob Schumm, Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson, Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin and Dist. Atty. Jim Flory attended the 90-minute forum.
At Tuesday's Lawrence City Commission meeting, Schumm issued a statement about the forum and the investigation into the death of Christopher Bread, whose body was found March 2 about a mile east of Lawrence.
"I'd like to commend the Haskell Indian Student Senate for putting on a forum last Friday," Schumm said at the meeting. "A potentially difficult situation was handled in the utmost of proper ways. The senate allowed for the community to address a number of issues which the Haskell students had a lot of questions about. It was very informative and very productive."
SCHUMM SAID he met with Anderson, Olin and Mike Wildgen, acting city manager, Tuesday morning to discuss issues raised at the forum.
"We tried to go over where we've been and where we're going in this case," he said.
Schumm said in an interview today that he was confident that local law enforcement agencies were doing their best to solve the Bread case. At the commission meeting, Schumm read from a memo from Olin to Wildgen that detailed the Bread investigation. According to the memo, investigators from the sheriff's department, the Kansas University Police Department and the Lawrence Police Department have interviewed 185 witnesses, followed 126 leads and worked 1,599 hours on the case.
Olin said in the memo that those totals did not include the initial patrol response by the sheriff's office and police department nor the investigative support from the Douglas County coroner's office, Kansas Bureau of Investigation crime scene technicians, the Lawrence Police Department evidence officer and various administrative duties.
DAN WILDCAT, an instructor at Haskell, said today that he is glad that communications have improved between city officials and the local Native American community. But he said he still is concerned about the Bread investigation.
"How good is the best that they can do?" Wildcat said. "If this is the best that we can do, maybe they need some help. We still don't have any real answers. When are we going to find out? If they decide that this death was an `unattended death,' that shouldn't satisfy anyone in this community."
He also said that he was worried that city leaders would let Haskell's complaints drop.
"The city government needs to be wary of saying `Well, we've had the forum. This issue is over.' That is not the case. This issue is not over.
"There needs to be more discussion and education about the multicultural nature of our community," Wildcat said. "People in Lawrence need to be sensitive to these issues. I will support any type of forum or discussion that promotes awareness."
Schumm said he would like to follow up on Haskell President Bob Martin's suggestion for ongoing meetings between city leaders and Indian leaders.
"I HOPE TO set up a triangular set of meetings between the Human Relations Commission, with its appointed officials by this city body, representatives from the KU student organizations, as well as the Haskell Indian Student Senate," Schumm said. "They need to discuss these charges and these questions, and maybe we can come to some resolve of how to approach this sensitive thing."
In addition, Schumm appointed Martin to a seat on the Human Relations Commission. Martin fills the unexpired term of Charles Geboe, Haskell's dean of instruction who will be leaving Lawrence to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.